Biological Theory 4 (3):240-246 (2009)

Frédéric Bouchard
Université de Montréal
E. O. Wilson (1974: 54) describes the problem that social organisms pose: “On what bases do we distinguish the extremely modified members of an invertebrate colony from the organs of a metazoan animal?” This framing of the issue has inspired many to look more closely at how groups of organisms form and behave as emergent individuals. The possible existence of “superorganisms” test our best intuitions about what can count and act as genuine biological individuals and how we should study them. As we will discuss, colonies of certain organisms display many of the properties that we usually reserve only to individual organisms. Although there is good reason to believe that many social insects form genuine emergent biological individuals, the conclusion offered here is of a slightly different sort. I will argue that to understand some social insects' interactions and the emergent traits they give rise to, it may be helpful to shift our understanding from a community-level approach to an ecosystem-level approach. I will argue that viewing certain insect colonies (termites) as parts of ecosystems allows us to better understand some of the adaptations that have emerged from their evolution.
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DOI 10.1162/biot.2009.4.3.240
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References found in this work BETA

Fitness.Alexander Rosenberg - 1983 - Journal of Philosophy 80 (8):457-473.

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Citations of this work BETA

The Many Faces of Biological Individuality.Thomas Pradeu - 2016 - Biology and Philosophy 31 (6):761-773.
Darwinism Without Populations: A More Inclusive Understanding of the “Survival of the Fittest”.Frédéric Bouchard - 2011 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 42 (1):106-114.
Units and Levels of Selection.Elisabeth Lloyd - 2008 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

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